About Me

My photo
My friends call me the "grammar goddess." Really. ;-) I own a freelance writing, editing and tutoring business. Previously, I served three years as food editor for The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, which kindled my interest in food writing. My other areas of expertise in writing include features, community news, architecture/construction and engraving/personalization. I have a frightening number of cookbooks and watch too many DIY, HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Antiques Roadshow (BBC and PBS versions) shows. And I tweak nearly every recipe I make.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: Winning Gluten-Free Bread and Baked Goods

I miss breakfast biscuit sandwiches on the run. And I had about despaired of having a decent biscuit I didn't have to make myself. Well, if I can manage it; it's not something I've tried. 

And I still had yet to find a gluten-free bread I could eat with just butter without it first being toasted. That has changed.

Last weekend, I went to Ann Arbor, hitting both Hiller's Market and Whole Foods Market. I looked anxiously through the baked goods for great bread and/or biscuits and hit the jackpot. 

Rumi's Passion, a gluten-free bakery based in Plymouth, MI, is among the breads featured in Hiller's frozen gluten-free section. Finally, bread that's edible without toasting! It tastes like a cross between challah and Italian bread and makes fabulous sandwiches and bread "pizza."

A second time purchase was the Katz Bakery's gluten-free Chocolate Rugelech, another Hiller's purchase. Liberally spiced with cinnamon, it's good straight out of the box, but I prefer it warmed up for about 15 seconds.

I also tried Udi's Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls. They aren't Cinnabons, but few things are. They are quite acceptable, though a little less pliable than, say, the frosted cinnamon rolls you bake yourself in the oven.

Don't try the cinnamon rolls without using part of the frosting packet, because without it, they are not very sweet at all. With a light drizzle, though, they're quite acceptable. Not only that, but I think they'd make a rather decadent bread pudding.

Udi's Ancient Grains Omega Flax and Fiber Gluten-Free Bread, a Whole Foods purchase, is my preferred sandwich bread. Truthfully, I haven't tried it untoasted, but I like my sandwiches toasted anyway. Another bread I really enjoy is Rudi's Cinnamon Raisin Bread, which I generally buy at Kroger (it's in with the frozen natural foods). I toast it, though.  

Udi's White and Multigrain sandwich breads also are pretty good, and, on average, a dollar a loaf cheaper than Rudi's breads.

Last but not least, there are the gluten-free cheddar biscuits from Whole Foods' GlutenFree Bakehouse®. They're great alone and are probably my favorite of all these bready items; I think I'll be making a breakfast sandwich with them soon. I ate two in one sitting!

These items range in price from $5.29 to $7.99, comparable to goods in a regular bakery. They're mostly found frozen, though Whole Foods apparently does enough volume that I found three types of the Rudi's bread on a shelf adjacent to the bakery. 

If you aren't inclined to have the time, energy, or patience to buy and mix several flours to make your own bread or treats, all of these are good options.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Product Review: Arrowhead Mills and Bob's Red Mill: A Tale of Three Cereals

I've been trying a number of new products since I started my gluten-free journey. 

It is working. I've had overall less sinus/allergy problems and lost some weight without really counting calories. That and incorporating more exercise are the next step for me. 

I truly enjoyed Arrowhead Mills Maple Buckwheat Flakes: They stay a bit crunchy, even if you let them sit while you're getting coffee ready, etc. I also think they'd be a great substitute to crush and put on meat to "oven fry." (Usually, you would use something like Kellogg's Corn Flakes; however, that has barley in it, which is a no-no on a gluten-free diet.)

I wasn't quite as thrilled with the Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Steel-Cut Oats. I cooked the oats for the amount of time specified on the package and they were still too crunchy for my taste (it states on the package not to microwave them, either, which is my usual modus operandi for making oatmeal ... what can I say: I'm impatient). I think they would be better cooked 10-20 minutes, versus the 10-12 minutes listed on the package. 

The reason I haven't tried that yet is because I have Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Whole Grain Rolled Oats. I did cook it in the microwave. It was done in about half the three-minute time given on the package. A caveat: cover and microwave the bowl in 30-second increments to avoid the overflow of oats I had. What was left, I really liked. I covered it but "nuked" for a minute 30 seconds, hence the oozing out of oats.

I hope these reviews are helpful to you and want to note that, in my area of Southeast Michigan, these products are at Whole Foods Market, Walmart and Kroger.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gluten-Free Me, and 'Wheat Belly' Review

Everywhere I look or listen lately, there is someone, somewhere, who's going gluten-free. Celebrities and regular people alike, including the nice lady I met last year at Big Lots who works at the local YMCA.

My doctor and I discussed the idea due to my (rather vicious) allergies. They're at their peak now, when the goldenrod is in bloom (darned plants). She thinks it might help and I decided to give it a shot for three weeks.

Starting tomorrow, I am embarking upon "the great gluten-free experiment." As I have done extensive research and recipe trolling, I more or less know what I can eat.

I've also read Wheat Belly, by William Davis, M.D. which is a very scary read in some respects. But it also gives hope that people who do get the uber-processed wheat out of their systems, wheat that doesn't even resemble that of 50 years ago, will regain their health. 

The book goes into very technical (and exhaustive) detail that means you'll really have to focus, particularly if you haven't taken science in 25 or more years. If you can wade through it, though, you see the point. Dr. Davis has
used this plan with significant success to better the lives of his patients.

I don't agree with everything in it (for example, suggesting it's best to have no bacon at all), but, for someone struggling with either metabolic syndrome, a pre-diabetic condition or diabetes, it might just be what the doctor ordered. It can be purchased through Amazon or Barnes and Noble, as either a print or e-book.

If you know of a great gluten-free recipe you'd like me to try, please post it (or its URL) below.  I'm going to try and report on at least one recipe a week while I'm checking this out.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Product Review: In Praise of LÄRABAR, Post Cocoa Mole

I was sunk when my favorite LÄRABAR disappeared. I even went so far as to look up how to make my own Cocoa Mole bars, but so far I haven't done so. However, if you want to give it a shot, try these blog links: 
Still, as time went on, I found other favorites, Banana Bread and Pecan Pie among them. (Both taste quite a bit like their sugar-laden counterparts.)

Whatever flavor you choose, I have learned it's best to only eat half a bar at once, unless you're using it as a meal replacement. (They're quite dense.)

One thing you can do is make your LÄRABARS into bite-sized treats. Roll them into tiny spheres and serve as a dainty appetizer to accompany savory cheese and crackers or various types of cheese cubes along with a veggie tray.

I think LÄRABARS are one of the best "healthy" desserts around, other than fresh fruit. Why? Because most of them are made solely of fruit, seasonings and nuts. If you hide the wrappers, your guests may mistake them for a fancy sweet truffle.

I usually buy them at Kroger, though you can buy them in bulk at Amazon as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's Time for Fairs

Ah, fair and festival food: The vendors can and do try to put anything possible on a stick. Or fry it. 

Not exactly healthy. But in moderation, they can be enjoyed. And make sure to share that elephant ear with at least two other people!

Let me know if you find others, however, I've seen a few exceptions to the rule of unhealthy fair food, such as:
  • Smoothies, if you get a small size 
  • Tandoori-style chicken on a stick
  • Chicken gyros
  • Occasional dinner specials in the 4-H food tent 


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Festivals ... with Food

Metro Detroit and adjacent areas may not immediately spring to mind when you think "now there's a foodie town." That said, one of the things I like best about this area is the quality and variety of the food. Not to mention the food component to be found in most festivals.

Some interesting ones coming up are:
  • Oxford Backyards & Burgers is in very cool downtown Oxford May 17-20. Times are 4-11 p.m. May 17-18, noon-11 p.m. May 19, 1-8 p.m. May 20. And again, it's free. Besides voting in the Best Burger Contest, enjoy entertainment and kids' activities.
  • Want to live a greener lifestyle? Learn how at the Chelsea Green Fair and Home Show May 19-20 at Chelsea Fairgrounds, 20501 Old US-12 Highway, Chelsea. Times are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Once more, enjoy free admission and parking. The home show next door also includes the Washtenaw County Health and Wellness Expo as well as the second annual Chelsea Fine Art & Craft Fair and premiere Green Vehicle Showcase.
  • Festival of the Nations, which started last weekend, takes placeat Warren City Hall, 29500 Van Dyke Ave., Warren, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 28. Admission and parking are free. All kinds of international, exotic food is available at this event, which also features world cultures and entertainment alongside a farmers market.
And, speaking of farmers markets, I risk repeating myself, but I'll say it again: these are a wonderful source of local food that can be cheaper than what you find in area supermarkets. At the very least, you know it's fresher than something trucked in from, say, Florida.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On May 12, 'Stamp Out Hunger'

It's the 20th year that the U.S. Postal Service has undertaken the Stamp Out Hunger food drive. 

The goal is to make this year's collection a record-breaking one that would exceed last year's total of more than 1,046,880 pounds of food collected from generous etro Detroiters. 

Just leave nonperishable food donations next to your mailbox bright and early Saturday, May 12 and your friendly letter carrier will deliver it to a local food bank or pantry. (If you don't do bright and early and it's not going to rain, you can always leave the food out the night before.)

And don't forget to check out this video on You Tube:

Monday, April 2, 2012

'Hunger Hits Home'

I want to encourage anyone reading this to watch the Hunger Hits Home special documentary on Food Network April 14.

Here's the description on Food Network's website: 
"The new documentary, 'Hunger Hits Home,' takes a first-hand look at the crisis of childhood hunger in America through the eyes of the parents, children, anti-hunger activists, educators and politicians on the frontlines of the battle. The film is part of an ongoing partnership between Food Network and Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Campaign to end childhood hunger in America by 2015."

See the video on You Tube:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bacon Smokies! Or, Is Everything Really Better with Bacon? Part II

The Bacon-Wrapped Brown Sugar Smokies that I made from Food.com were a hit. 

In future, though, I'll use one of the recipes that say to cook in oven and transfer to the crockpot to keep warm. 

"Why?" you ask. Good question.

Because it took over four hours to cook in the crockpot! Plus, the Lit'l Smokies® on top (those not being entirely cooked in bacon fat were essentially steamed and needed to be broiled to brown the bacon).

Another reason? We had to deal with that tantalizing smell for almost all the time they were cooking! I swear some of the men (and women) were drooling in anticipation once they asked, "What's that smell?" and I told them.

I used the turkey version of the Lit'l Smokies®. You can't tell the difference from regular, taste-wise, and it's got half the fat. And it's hard to find, so plan to buy them in advance! I went to two different stores in search of them.

Also, I used thick-sliced bacon, which was recommended in several of the recipes Hillshire Farms' website says you also can use turkey bacon for a leaner version, though that didn't get as positive a response on the recipe boards. (Yes, I did extensive research, bordering on obsessive.) 

My bacon was fattier than normal, so I think I'll get the 25 percent leaner (and thinner) type next time.

Once done, they were very popular (though they definitely played second banana to the prime rib my friend, Amanda, served). And I have just a few words for you re the prime rib: Precooked. From Costco. Tender. Excellent.

I've included another link from the Hillshire Farms website that hopefully will lead to faster Bacon-Wrapped Smokies, or as I like to call it now, Bacon-Wrapped Sausage Candy. You can then toss them into a crockpot on low to keep them warm (don't forget to put the lovely brown sugar and bacon fat "sauce" in with them to keep them tender).

One key mistake on my part: I forgot my camera and didn't have the presence of mind to use my cell phone's camera to show you what they looked like.

Instead, you can drool at a picture of the finished product on the baconology.org website, which offers another version cooked in the oven, as well as several other mouth-watering sounding bacon recipes. This one's originally from allrecipes.com. (See direct link for a lovely picture.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Unbelievable Sushi: Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

Last night, I stayed overnight at a friend's house in Ann Arbor. (I had something to cover at 7 a.m. that is quite close to her house, and we'd been trying to get together for a while. It was a fun time and made for a much shorter trip this morning than it would have been from home.)

Neither Jen Halls nor I had eaten dinner yet; she asked how I liked sushi. And we met up at a place just down the road from her called Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar on Washtenaw Ave. east of US-23. 

I love sushi, as long as it's cooked. Now some people consider cooked sushi an oxymoron and still others would call me a sissy for not eating sushi with raw seafood. I have tried it and I don't like it. And it was a tuna roll my former office mate Becca dared me to try, if you really want to know.

Even considering my requirements, that still left me with fabulous sushi rolls to choose from at 30 percent off because it was after 7 p.m. (not sure that discount applies on weekends, but you can check). The decor also was quite an experience; we sat in an adorable wooden booth with little curtains. Nice and quiet to talk, in contrast to the show going on in the next room (the steakhouse part, where chefs cook your dinner in front of you in an exuberant, party-like hubbub.

We started off with the Tiger Eye special roll, a spicy California roll and a Philly roll. They were all excellent, but most amazing of all was the Tiger Eye special roll. We got it on a whim because it sounded like an interesting combination of ingredients, including smoked salmon, shrimp, jalapeno pepper, rolled in soybean paper, tempura battered and deep fried with eel sauce. It was, hands down, the best kind of sushi I'd ever eaten. 
Yes, deep-frying sushi sounds kind of odd, but this roll was very thinly battered and not crusty at all. It also still tasted light, as sushi should, and was slightly crisp. 

Then we really went for the gusto and got another Tiger Eye roll. Still fabulous. This wasn't a fluke. Oh, and the total bill was just over $23, excluding tip.

Jen suggested we make the Tiger Eye roll our traditional dinner when we hang out, and I agreed wholeheartedly. Of course, there's still the dessert menu and the whole other fun, loud steakhouse atmosphere to try out, but we'll still start with a Tiger Eye roll. Or two. (She took the photo you see with her phone. It looked even better in person.)

Address: 4641 Washtenaw Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48108 
Phone: 734-975-0989
website: http://www.ichibanannarbor.com/index.cfm?websiteid=5390
(Note: menu with regular prices is available on the website.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Is Everything Really Better With Bacon?

Ack. It's been over a month since I've shared anything on this blog. Time flies.

To make up for this lapse, I'm sharing some of my recent, interesting finds.
I've also been on an odyssey trying to discover some neat recipes with bacon, which I think makes everything better. Well, nearly everything. I have yet to try it in desserts. 

I'm going to try the turkey Lil' Smokies recipes with the bacon and brown sugar ... still haven't decided if I'm using low-sodium regular bacon or turkey bacon to wrap the tiny sausages in, though. Here's the recipe I'm thinking of trying, which also uses turkey bacon. It's for a graduation party I'm attending Saturday night. Will let you know how it turns out.

Other interesting-sounding, bacon-heavy recipes include: 

Next up is the Progresso Souper You® Contest. The blog I Like it a Latte, discusses the event details here, so I won't go into exhaustive detail. But three winners will receive a LA-based makeover, including their flights out there, their new look and some new clothes, which is pretty cool.

Enter by going to www.SouperYou.com; entries include submitting a photo and brief essay about why you love Progresso soups and deserve a makeover by Feb. 22. Check the site again for the top 10 finalists March 12 (you can vote for your favorite finalist until March 25).

And now for my final question: wouldn't most (if not all) Progresso soups all taste better with a little bacon? 

Try it and let me know.